NESCAC Quarterfinal: No. 2 Middlebury 3, No. 7 Bates 1

NESCAC Quarterfinal: No. 2 Middlebury 3, No. 7 Bates 1

Courtesy of Tufts Sports Information

MEDFORD - Junior Becca Raffel recorded 22 kills leading Middlebury College to a four-set win over Bates College in the quarterfinal round of the NESCAC Women's Volleyball Championship on Friday at Tufts University.

The Panthers (16-8) advance to play the winner of Friday's Amherst versus Wesleyan quarterfinal in Saturday's semifinal at 3:30 pm. Bates, which was led by senior Chandler McGrath's 24 killsfinishes its season at 11-14.

Set scores in the tightly contest match were 25-21, 22-25, 25-22 and 25-21. The Panthers earned revenge for a 3-1 loss to the Bobcats in their regular-season finale last Saturday.

Raffel was the only Panther with double-digit kills and finished with a fine .339 hitting percentage. She added 14 digs. Senior Hannah Blackburn led Middlebury defensively with a career-high 27 digs and added 51, while first-year Gigi Alper finished with 15. Junior Alice Roberts, sophomore Sarah Staver and sophomore Isabel Sessions all had nine kills for the Panthers. Roberts was in on six blocks (two solo) as well.

First-year Taylor Stafford-Smith added 16 kills, 21 digs and four blocks for Bates. The Bobcats were led defensively by first-year Gabi Eustache's 31 digs. Sophomore Claire Naughton had five kills and two block assists.

In set one, Middlebury called timeout with a slim 18-17 advantage. The Panthers ran off four straight points with Blackburn serving, including an ace, and stretched their lead to 22-17. Bates closed to within 22-20 with the help of back-to-back McGrath kills, but Middlebury closed out the 25-21 win with a kill by Roberts and a Bates attack error.

After the Bobcats sprung out to an early 7-2 lead in the second set, the Panthers came back even the set, 7-7, and it was tight the rest of the way. Middlebury had a 14-12 edge on a Raffel kill, but a pair of McGrath kills tied the match and Bates would not trail again. The Bobcats evened the match at 1-1 with McGrath's kill ending the second set.

The third set was tied 21-21 after Bates error, but Middlebury closed with four of the last five points to win 25-22. Raffel had a service ace that won the set.

The Panthers opened a 20-12 lead in the fourth, but had to hold off the Bobcats after they closed to within 22-20. A kill by Raffel, an ace by Staver and a Bates attack error ended the match with a 25-21 Middlebury win in the fourth.